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    #1

    "is its people" or "are its people"?

    I saw a sign in a hospital that read:

    "The strength of the hospital is its people." This seems to me to be incorrect grammatically. Shouldn't it read "...are its people"? As I understand it, the verb must be in agreement with the subject of the sentence. If this is correct, then the issue lies in identifying the subject of the sentence. If the subject is, as I suppose, "people" (correct me if I'm wrong about this), then it seems that the sentence should read "are its people." As I see it, the reason I think that "people" is (or "are"?!) the subject is because the people are giving strength to the hospital, and the hospital is receiving strength from the people (making the hospital the object -- correct me if I'm wrong about this, too).

    The other thing that makes me think that that sentence is incorect is because if you switch around the words without changing the meaning to: "Its people is the strength of the hospital", it seems clearer that the verb should be "are" and not "is." When I present this to my friends, however, they tell me that I can't switch the sentence like that to "check my work." So which is right? Thanks.

  1. Offroad's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: "is its people" or "are its people"?

    The strength of the hospital is its people.

    'strength' agrees with 'is', singular

    The strength of the team is its players.

    NOT a teacher!

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    #3

    Re: "is its people" or "are its people"?

    The subject is "The strength of the hospital", which is singular. '

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    #4

    Re: "is its people" or "are its people"?

    so it does not matter what the object of the sentence is the verb should agree with the subject only. am i getting it right?

    The strength of the hospital is its people
    .
    the word people has nothing to do with is then. is that so?

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    #5

    Re: "is its people" or "are its people"?

    The subject and the verb should agree. However, as this case illustrates, you can have a singular subject and singular verb along with either a singular or plural subject.


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    #6

    Re: "is its people" or "are its people"?

    Quote Originally Posted by DhBlue View Post
    So it does not matter what the object of the sentence is. The verb should agree with the subject only. Am I getting it right? yes

    The strength of the hospital is its people. The word people has nothing to do with is then. Is that so?
    We didn't say that; "its people" is the object, not the subject.

    2006


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    #7

    Re: "is its people" or "are its people"?

    But nobody here has yet proven why they believe "strength" is the subject! SAYS WHO!! The subject is the one doing the action. Strength doesn't do something; people do something. People are strengthening the hospital; the strength is not "peopleing" the hospital! Besides that, the whole point of the slogan is the climax--the people! You wouldn't have strength without the people. The important part of the sentence is the word "people," not the strength. You must first prove why you think "strength" is the subject before you're able to say whether it should be "is" or "are."

    Last night I thought of a parallel sentence:
    "The beauty of the tree are its leaves." The leaves add beauty to the tree; the tree receives beauty from the leaves. The subject, therefore, must be "leaves," not "beauty," since "leaves" do the beautifying action. Hence, it must be "are" and not "is."

    As I was surfing the web for some answers, I came across a website that seems to help us here.

    That document says the following about sentence subjects:

    • The subject of a sentence tells whom or what the sentence is about.
    • The subject of a sentence answers the question Who or what did it? Or About whom or what is something being said.
    • The subject may come anywhere in the sentence, at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end.
    • The subject of a sentence is a word or group of words doing the job of a noun or pronoun.
    • The subject will never be found in a prepositional phrase (those nouns and pronouns are the objects of the preposition!).
    • The simple subject is the main word or word group that tells whom or what the sentence is about.
    • The simple subject is part of the complete subject.

    When we apply the question "Who or what did it" to our hospital sentence above, quite clearly the answer is that the people are the strength; the strength does not people!

    As I read more of that website, I saw this sentence:

    "Hopped, skipped, and jumped is a compound verb."

    Notice the word "is!" Even though "hopped, skipped, and jumped" are plural, the subject there appears at the end of the sentence (just like in our hospital slogan sentence). Hence, since "compound verb" is singular, it must take the singular verb "is."

    Continuing to search the web, I came across a Yahoo forum where the writer asks about inverted sentences (sentences that have the subject at the end). One example given is the following:

    "Who are you?"

    Notice the verb "are," which agrees with the subject "you." "You" is the subject, appearing at the end of the sentence, just like in our hospital slogan sign. We don't say Who IS you? So too, saying "strength is people" is just as improper (as I see it).

    The other example is "Who am I." Again, we don't say "I is" but "I am." So too, we say "people are strength," not "people is strength."

    Then I looked up "Inverted sentence" in Wikipedia, and found this sentence (drum roll, please):

    "Off the coast of North Carolina lie the Barrier Islands."

    Notice "lie" agrees with "islands", NOT "coast"! This is the tricky thing with inverted sentences. But as that article points out, "This construction causes the subject to receive more emphasis." So too, in our hospital slogan sign, the reason it is inverted is to add emphasis to the subject "people," and therefore, the verb must be "are" and not "is."
    Last edited by john17_17; 26-Jun-2010 at 18:26.

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    #8

    Re: "is its people" or "are its people"?

    Subject: The strength of the hospital
    Verb: is
    Object (or subject complement): its people

    The word "is" is not an action verb. The word "is" is a stative verb. There is no action going on the sentence.

    Similarly, it should be: "The beauty of a tree is its leaves." The word "beauty" is the subject of the sentence.

    (I apologize for any mistakes in terminology. I am not a full-time teacher.)



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    #9

    Re: "is its people" or "are its people"?

    As I understand it, the phrase "of the hospital" is a prepositional phrase (the word "of" is pre-positioned to its object, "hospital"). That doesn't help us much except to know that the singular "hospital," since it's the object, does not dictate whether the verb should be "is" or "are."
    Last edited by john17_17; 26-Jun-2010 at 20:56.

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    #10

    Re: "is its people" or "are its people"?

    Quote Originally Posted by john17_17 View Post
    But nobody here has yet proven why they believe "strength" is the subject! SAYS WHO!! The subject is the one doing the action. Strength doesn't do something; people do something. People are strengthening the hospital; the strength is not "peopleing" the hospital! Besides that, the whole point of the slogan is the climax--the people! You wouldn't have strength without the people. The important part of the sentence is the word "people," not the strength. You must first prove why you think "strength" is the subject before you're able to say whether it should be "is" or "are."

    Last night I thought of a parallel sentence:
    "The beauty of the tree are its leaves." The leaves add beauty to the tree; the tree receives beauty from the leaves. The subject, therefore, must be "leaves," not "beauty," since "leaves" do the beautifying action. Hence, it must be "are" and not "is."

    As I was surfing the web for some answers, I came across a website that seems to help us here.

    That document says the following about sentence subjects:

    The subject of a sentence tells whom or what the sentence is about.
    The subject of a sentence answers the question Who or what did it? Or About whom or what is something being said.
    The subject may come anywhere in the sentence, at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end.
    The subject of a sentence is a word or group of words doing the job of a noun or pronoun.
    The subject will never be found in a prepositional phrase (those nouns and pronouns are the objects of the preposition!).
    The simple subject is the main word or word group that tells whom or what the sentence is about.
    The simple subject is part of the complete subject.

    When we apply the question "Who or what did it" to our hospital sentence above, quite clearly the answer is that the people are the strength; the strength does not people!

    As I read more of that website, I saw this sentence:

    "Hopped, skipped, and jumped is a compound verb."

    Notice the word "is!" Even though "hopped, skipped, and jumped" are plural, the subject there appears at the end of the sentence (just like in our hospital slogan sentence). Hence, since "compound verb" is singular, it must take the singular verb "is."

    Continuing to search the web, I came across a Yahoo forum where the writer asks about inverted sentences (sentences that have the subject at the end). One example given is the following:

    "Who are you?"

    Notice the verb "are," which agrees with the subject "you." "You" is the subject, appearing at the end of the sentence, just like in our hospital slogan sign. We don't say Who IS you? So too, saying "strength is people" is just as improper (as I see it).

    The other example is "Who am I." Again, we don't say "I is" but "I am." So too, we say "people are strength," not "people is strength."

    Then I looked up "Inverted sentence" in Wikipedia, and found this sentence (drum roll, please):

    "Off the coast of North Carolina lie the Barrier Islands."

    Notice "lie" agrees with "islands", NOT "coast"! This is the tricky thing with inverted sentences. But as that article points out, "This construction causes the subject to receive more emphasis." So too, in our hospital slogan sign, the reason it is inverted is to add emphasis to the subject "people," and therefore, the verb must be "are" and not "is."
    "Strength" is the subject. There's no need to "prove" it and it's not a "belief." It's a fact.

    If the sentence were the other way around, it would indeed read "The people are the strength of the hospital."

    But it isn't written that way. It's written in the way that "strength" is the subject.

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